Human Trafficking Awareness

An Eye-Opening Discussion: A Community Conversation: Modern Slavery—Global to Local

I have been researching and attending events related to human trafficking ever since writing and publishing my novel True Mercy. Still, when I attended a discussion entitled “A Community Conversation: Modern Slavery—Global to Local” at Seton Hall University, I gathered a great deal of new information. Slavery/human trafficking concerns everyone whether we realize it or not. It is occurring throughout the world, but many are surprised to find out it is also happening in cities and suburbs across the United States.

Before I relate the eye-opening information, first I would like to list the event’s speakers.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (Hamilton, NJ) is serving his 19th term in the House of Representatives and is the author of the comprehensive legislation, “ The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (PL 106-386).” This is a federal, multi-agency approach to prevent slavery, protect victims, and punish traffickers to the full extent of the law. He gave his talk through telephone conferencing.

Ingrid Johnson is a registered nurse and a member of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She has worked tirelessly in the cause of human trafficking awareness ever since she rescued her daughter from the clutches of human traffickers fourteen years ago.

Dr. Bernard Freamon is a professor of legal philosophy specializing in Islamic Jurisprudence and Islamic Legal History. He teaches at Seton Hall School of Law. He has written extensively on human trafficking/slavery in Asia and Africa. Dr. Freamon is currently working on his latest book, Possessed by The Right Hand: The Problem of Slavery in Islamic Law and Muslim Cultures.

Kate Lee is the Administrator of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Co-Chair of the NJ Governor’s Advisory Council Against Sexual Violence. She has organized numerous conferences and workshops to raise awareness.

Robert Boneberg is the Coordinator of the Slave-Free Community Project and is the Co-Chair of the Slave-Free Commerce Committee of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

The five speakers made the following points:

  • There are an estimated 21 to 46 million slaves in the world. There are many different forms of slavery. They include slavery, human trafficking, forced labor, sex trafficking, and debt bondage.
  • Approximatley 15,000-18,000 slaves are imported in the U.S. annually. They comprise of sex slaves (50%), and others, including slaves in domestic service, business enterprises, and agriculture.
  • In regards to slavery around the Indian Ocean in Asia and near Africa, human trafficking is a continuation of what has been happening there for the last 3-4,000 years. Efforts to eradicate slavery in this part of the world have been a failure.
  • There are three reasons slavery is still happening in the world: 1.) Migration-People are migrating around the world in a manner never seen before. Criminals take advantage of this by trafficking people escaping their countries. 2.) Climate disasters— Traffickers again take advantage of people escaping natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. 3.) Conflict—Militant Muslim groups like ISIS take slaves.
  • Women from Mexico and African countries have been trafficked in various parts of New Jersey, according to arrest documents .
  • One way to eradicate slavery is to pay attention to the products we buy. The US Dept of Labor has identified the following products that are often made by child or forced labor. Among them are coffee, fruit, nuts, cotton, chocolate, rice, gold, and footwear.
  • Red Flag: If one sees a young person getting gifts that are inappropriate, that may be a sign that a person may be trying to lure them into trafficking.
  • Slaves are very cheap now because of migration. They are considered disposable people. It is more expensive to fly to Haiti than to buy a slave in Haiti.
  • There are more slaves today than ever before in history.
  • Approximately one quarter of them are children.
  • Approximately one fifth are in sex slavery.
  • Approximately 15 million people are in forced marriages.
  • There are approximately 58,000 slaves in the U.S.
  • Traffickers make approximately $150,000,000,000 from slavery per year.

The meeting concluded with speakers telling audience members that only when people work together can slavery finally be eradicated once and for all.

If you suspect slavery/human trafficking is taking place, do not attempt to rescue that person yourself. You may be putting that person in even more danger. It is best to call the following number:

National 24 hour hotline 1-888-373-7888

or Text INFO or HELP to BE FREE (233733)

Join in the fight to prevent slavery!

Website:  https://slavefreecommunityproject.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/slavefreecommunityproject/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/slavefreecommunityproject/

YouTube Channel:  ow.ly/xF4M30hAlZX

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SlaveFreeCP

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Progress!

I was so pleased to read that the efforts of human trafficking prevention groups have yielded success! For years now, pimps have been forcing young girls and women into sexual relations with strangers in hotel rooms while hotel owners and staff would often look away. Krista Torralva of the Orlando Sentinel reported that a  bill is being prepared for the Florida Legislature to approve that would allow human trafficking victims to sue hotel workers who ignore these crimes.

Another bill would require hotel staff members to receive training in recognizing the signs of human trafficking. If these bills pass, it would greatly impact the 400 hotels in Orlando and the many more in the surrounding areas.

A similar bill was already passed in Pennsylvania in 2014 when a human trafficking victim was able to sue a Philadelphia motel when staff members ignored her travail when she was forced to sleep with hundreds of men.

According to The Polaris Project, an anti-human trafficking organization, Orlando, Florida is ranked number three in calls per capita to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Let’s hope to see more progress throughout the world in combatting the proliferation of human trafficking. It is everyone’s responsibility to spot the warning signs and act to prevent this crime.

To learn more about The Polaris Project, log onto https://polarisproject.org. The phone number of the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.

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Truckers Lending a Hand to Fight Human Trafficking

Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT)

https://www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org/

A few weeks ago, I happened to find an article about a truck driver who rescued young girls enslaved in human trafficking at a truck stop. This led me to discover the organization Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). It is a very active organization designed to train members of the trucking industry as well as individual truckers to recognize the signs where human trafficking is taking place. It is heartening to know that millions of truckers on the road are joining the fight against this underground criminal industry. A representative for TAT was quoted as saying, “Those in the trucking industry are in a unique position because the traffickers are transient and often stop at truck stops.” Indeed through spreading awareness, truckers have rescued countless victims.

TAT educates truckers to recognize the signs where trafficking may be taking place. These include the following:

  • CB chatter about quotas
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Minors looking fearful
  • Signs of branding

TAT advises people to ask these minors the following questions:

  • “Are you traveling by yourself?”
  • “Who are you traveling with?”
  • “When is the last time you saw your family?”
  • “Do you get to keep part of the money?”

The average age of these girls is only 13-15, and everyone should do their part to lend a hand in rescuing these trapped young girls. If you suspect this is happening, the hotline number is 888-3737-888 or you can text BE FREE (233733). REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY IF YOU SEE IT. IF YOU’RE WRONG, THAT’S OK. TAT cautions people not to try to save the girls themselves because this could be dangerous.As a spokesperson for TAT put it, “Trucking and law enforcement are working together to put these guys out of business.”

 

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A Human Trafficking Awareness Event, The Liberty Bell and A Book Review

Screening of the Film Chosen and Discussion

Last week I attended a screening of the human trafficking awareness film Chosen. Two young women speak about their nightmarish experiences. Chosen demonstrated the most common method teenage girls get lured into human trafficking: older men pretend to be their boyfriends, lavish them with expensive gifts, take them to strip clubs, and from there force them into prostitution. In most cases, the older men had been stalking them for months, so if the girls refuse to cooperate, their so-called ‘boyfriends” threaten to harm them and their families. At the end of the film, girls are advised to tell others what is happening and to take action as soon as something looks wrong. Men in their twenties or older have no business being around thirteen and fourteen-year-old girls.

The speakers at this forum informed the audience other alarming information:

  • Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. The first is the drug trade.
  • More than 50% of victims worldwide are estimated to be underaged.
  • Sex trafficking occurs most often in the states along the coast.
  • Girls will now most likely meet their first connections to traffickers on the internet.
  • Trafficking takes place in bathrooms at middle schools.

What you can do:

  • Educated yourself and others in your community about human trafficking.
  • Advocate for laws preventing trafficking and contact your state’s representatives to push for new measures to prevent trafficking.
  • Volunteer and donate to organizations that fight trafficking and provide support to survivors.

Report Suspicious Activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (24/7 150+languages)

1888-3737 or Text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)

Philadelphia

Earlier this month, I traveled to Philadelphia for the Bookbaby Writers Conference. Before it started, I visited the Liberty Bell. Inside the building, there was information posted about the Liberty Bell’s history. It was first used to symbolize freedom during the Revolutionary War, and later it was used to mark the efforts of African-Americans and women’s fight for equality. After leaving the exhibit, I felt it should also now symbolize the fight against human trafficking.

Inscription on the Liberty Bell:

Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof Lev. XXV. v X.
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in Phila
Pass and Stow
Philad
MDCCLIII

Book Review

On a more pleasant note, I just finished reading the fantastic book The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, US air traffic was closed. Over 250 airplanes carrying 43, 895 passengers were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland. The residents of Gander opened their homes, cooked endless meals, and donated clothes, toiletries, towels, and bedsheets to the stranded passengers once they landed. Their hospitality was astonishing. Reading the book restored my faith in humanity.

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Human Trafficking: A Growing Worldwide Catastrophe

Last week I did not write because I traveled to New England. I saw family, toured the Boston Common, and took day trips to Cape Cod. Everyone needs a vacation to clear their minds and refresh their spirits, but I am happy to be back again writing on this blog.

In my novel True Mercy I write about human trafficking. In reality, this criminal activity is occurring all over the world, in First World countries and Third World countries, in wealthy, middle-class, and lower-class communities, and in all cultures and races. One only has to pay attention to the news.

Rockaway is a family-friendly, suburban town in Morris County, New Jersey. It has been reported in the local media that Adolphus Mims of nearby Morris Plains, leader of a human trafficking scheme, forced two Rockaway teenagers to engage in sexual relations for money over a four-day period at the now defunct Rockaway Hotel. Morris Plains, by the way, is another family-friendly, suburban town. Fortunately, the girls were rescued and Mims and his partner, a woman named Debbie Kooken, were arrested.

On the international front, 20 year-old British model Chloe Ayling was kidnapped and held hostage for six days when she arrived for a photo shoot in Milan, Italy. Her “photo shoot” actually turned out to be an abandoned building where she was drugged and transported to an isolated farmhouse. Her four captors intended to sell her as a sex slave on an online auction. Fortunately, Italian police rescued Ayling and arrested her captors.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the documentary I Am Jane Doe, which dealt with men manipulating teenage girls into advertising for sex on the online site Backpage.com, which is the second largest buying and selling of products and services website (Craigslist.com is the largest). They control 80% of the market for sex ads. Many of their ads feature under aged teenage girls in provocative poses under the guise of “escort services.” Many court cases have been brought up against Backpage.com, but all have been dismissed thus far. Congress has recently decided to challenge their right to advertise young girls.

When will this madness stop? As the saying goes, “If you stand around and do nothing, you are part of the problem.” Get involved to stop human trafficking by contacting one or more of these organizations. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it is a great place to start.

Human Trafficking Organizations:

1. Zonta International – www.zonta.org

2. Stop the Traffik –  www.stopthetraffik.org

3. Hope for Justice – www.hopeforjustice.org

4. Durga Tree International – www.durgatreeinternational.org

5. Polaris – www.polarisproject.org

You can make a difference!

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

–Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a.

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